GMWatch News Review archive
WEEKLY WATCH number 50
from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor
Welcome to WW50 bringing you all the latest news in brief on the GM issue, plus a round up of last month's hottest stories.
Fantastic news from Japan where people power is reported to have brought a halt to all GM rice research there. Now campaigners are gearing up to stop Monsanto's GM wheat - Japan's one of the biggest markets for U.S. wheat.
The bad news this week is confirmation that UC Berkeley are denying tenure to Dr Ignacio Chapela - the scientist who has faced a witch-hunt since he exposed the Mexican maize contamination scandal.
But Dr Chapela has retorted in magnificent style by putting together an "extraordinary conversation" with other academics who've been victims of similar corporate terrorizing of academic institutions: Dr Arpad Pusztai, Dr John Losey (of Monarch butterfly fame), Dr Tyrone Hayes (hounded by Syngenta and co. over his Atrazine findngs) as well as Ignacio Chapela.
Better still, the Berkeley event, "The pulse of Scientific Freedom In the Age of the Biotech Industry", can be watched worldwide via the Internet. (see EVENT OF THE MONTH)
Finally, don't miss our review of an exciting and wonderfully written book, Seeds of Deception, by Jeffrey Smith (BOOK OF THE MONTH). Also worth looking at is the item, ARGENTINA: THE CATASTROPHE OF GM SOYA (OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK), a telling account of the ruin of a once-prosperous country by GM soya.
*QUOTE OF THE MONTH
*SETBACKS TO THE GM LOBBY
*OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
*BOOK OF THE MONTH: SEEDS OF DECEPTION
*EVENT OF THE MONTH
*THE MONTH'S TOP STORIES
*HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"GM technology is not a silver bullet to solve the problems of hunger and malnutrition worldwide. The US which has adopted this technology has 14 million hungry people." Dr Shanthu Shantharam, Syngenta, formerly with the US Department of Agriculture.
SETBACKS TO THE GM LOBBY
+ TANZANIAN PARLIAMENT BLOCKS GOVERNMENT ON GM SEEDS
The Tanzanian parliament has blocked plans by the government to allow GM seeds and crops to be imported, saying that they are not needed in the country and could damage its environment.
+ INDIA: BIODIVERSITY WARNING / GM NOT FEEDING THE HUNGRY EVEN IN AMERICA
The chairman of the Indian government's expert panel on biotechnology, Dr MS Swaminathan, while inaugurating Gene Campaign's national symposium on the relevance of GM technology to Indian agriculture, said that trials and commercialisation of GM crops should be avoided in the centres of biodiversity as a precaution. At the symposium a former US Department of Agriculture regulator now with Syngenta, Dr Shanthu Shantharam, admitted, "GM technology is not a silver bullet to solve the problems of hunger and malnutrition worldwide. The US which has adopted this technology has 14 million hungry people."
+ UK BISHOP URGES GM PROBE AND PLEADS WITH CHRISTIANS TO SAVE THE EARTH
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, has called on Christians to save the environment. His new book, Jesus and the Earth, says that GM crops serve the rich rather than the poor and argues that the Earth and, in turn the human race, are in grave danger because of the violence that has been done to the planet.
+ JAPAN: CITIZENS STOP GM RICE!
On November 28, more than 450 people from all over Japan gathered in Morioka city, Iwate, to participate in a gathering "No to GMO National Assembly in Iwate". At the Assembly more than 407,000 signatures were collated as part of a petition by people from all over Japan, demanding a stop to the GM rice research taking place in Iwate - the last place in Japan still conducting such experiments, following earlier opposition to GM rice.
After receiving the signatures, the Director of the Agriculture Department in Iwate, publicly stated Iwate would abandon research into GM rice. He also said Iwate will not conduct any further outdoor experiments involving GM crops.
+ CANADA: SCHMEISER CANOLA CASE TESTS GM PATENT
The future of GM crops in North America is in the hands of 73-year-old Canadian canola farmer Percy Schmeiser. Schmeiser already has lost two court cases dealing with his use of seed designed by Monsanto, but he and his supporters have made it to the Supreme Court of Canada with a new argument: Monsanto's patent is invalid.
The case, to be heard in January, will be binding only in Canada. But the outcome will have a ripple effect throughout North America, where Monsanto has sued more than 500 farmers for infringing on its GM seed patents. "Monsanto does not have a patent for the canola seed," said Nadege Adam of the Council of Canadians, a group with intervener status in the Schmeiser case. "It was given a patent for a gene trait.... In Canada, no one has ever been given a patent for either a plant or a seed, only genes."
+ STARLINK STILL SHOWING UP IN CORN SUPPLY
Three years after a GM corn banned from human consumption turned up in taco shells and was pulled from the market, contaminated grain is still showing up in the nation's corn supply. A federal testing program found traces of the banished grain, StarLink, in more than 1 percent of samples submitted by growers and grain handlers in the past 12 months, government records show.
+ STARLINK IN MEXICAN NATIVE MAIZE VARIETIES
Starlink GM maize is contaminating native Mexican maize varieties and some native varieties are contaminated with up to three different transgenes. This is particularly worrying because Mexico is the ancient source of genetic diversity for maize varieties. At least 302 organisations from 56 countries have signed an open letter of protest against GM contamination of Mexican maize, which can be read and signed at
+ THAILAND: MONSANTO'S PLANS MUST GO, NOT COMMON SENSE
An article in The Nation (Thailand) criticises plans by Monsanto to make Thailand a regional base for its GM Round-Up Ready corn and Bt corn by 2006. For this plan to be realized, the company insists that Thailand's ban on GMO crop field trials must be lifted by the end of the year.
The article points out that there is good reason for the ban: "The ban that Monsanto is now challenging was imposed in April 2001 precisely because field trials of Monsanto's Bt cotton caused contamination of farmers' fields. When the field trials were initiated, Monsanto and key officials in the Agriculture Ministry and the Science and Technology Ministry guaranteed that these experimental GMO crops would be carefully controlled. They weren't.
"Just as scientists had warned for more than a decade, once released into the environment these GMOs were out of control, contaminating non-GMO cotton and ending up in places they should never have been... The position of the Thai government must be clear: if the GMO field trial ban does not suit Monsanto's business plans, then it is Monsanto's plans that must be thrown out, not common sense."
The Thai government has cited research by Dr Charles Benbrook (see following item), which shows GM crops increase pesticide use, in support of their stance.
+ GM CROPS INCREASE PESTICIDE USE
Agronomist Dr Charles Benbrook has completed a new report on the impact of GE crops on pesticide use in the US since 1996. It is the first comprehensive analysis of the impacts of GE technology on pounds of pesticides applied and reaches a startling finding. While GM crops reduced pesticide use about 25 million pounds in the first 3 years of commercialisation (1996-1998), they increased use over 73 million pounds in 2001-2003, largely because of the slipping efficacy of RR technology.
The report was compiled from publicly available USDA data.
The press release is posted at --
The report is described at, and accessible via --
The direct link to the report is --
+ PRAKASH CLAIMS BENBROOK IS PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC
Biotech front man Prof C S Prakash wrote to the Nation newspaper in Thailand protesting at the "pseudo-scientific" claims of Benbrook: "A study conducted by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy in Washington found that biotechnology-derived soybeans, corn, cotton, papaya, squash and canola increased the U.S. food production by 4 billion pounds, saved $1.2 billion in production costs and decreased the usage of pesticide by an impressive 46 million pounds in the year 2001 alone. Thus, Contrary to the pseudo-scientific claims recently cited, GM technology has actually decreased the usage of pesticide by an impressive 46 million pounds in the year 2001 alone."
Very impressive. Particularly, as 2001 was one of the years where Benbrook found USDA's data showed the exact opposite. The "pseudo-scientific" Benbrook has served as the agricultural staff expert on the Council for Environmental Quality during the Carter Administration, was the Executive Director of the subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture with jurisdiction over pesticide regulation, research, trade and foreign agricultural issues and with oversight of the USDA. He became the Executive Director, Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences in early 1984 and during his seven-years as Executive Director, he helped establish the Board as a major voice on agricultural science and regulatory policy. He now works as an independent agronomic consultant.
The biotech industry has been so concerned by the past findings of his research on GM crops (on yield, pesticide use etc.), that it has poured money into the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy to pump out contradictory research findings. As NCFAP put it, "In the spring of 2001,with financial support from Rockefeller Foundation (BIO [Biotechnology Industry Organisation]) Monsanto, Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) [biotech industry funded front group], Grocery Manufacturers of America, and CropLife America (CLA) [all the main biotech/agrochemical players], NCFAP researchers began an ambitious project to estimate the realized and potential impacts of 40 separate case studies of biotech crops."
Leonard Gianessi who oversees the NCFAP's work on pesticides and agriculture, whose work Prakash trumpets, has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Affairs. Gianessi appears to have no postgraduate qualifications and no academic qualifications in agrculture, economics or science
An article in Nature describes NCFAP simply as 'a pro-GM industry group'
In 2002 NCFAP's funders included:
Biotechnology Industry Organization
Council for Biotechnology Information
Grocery Manufacturers of America
E.I. DuPont de Nemours
+ ITALY TO SET UP TIGHTER BARRIERS AGAINST GMO IMPORTS
The Italian government will launch a decree as soon as possible to confirm zero tolerance on GMOs "until tests have been conducted on their impact on neighbouring crops", Agricultural Policies Minister Gianni Alemanno announced at the 23rd International Conference on Biodynamic Agriculture in Sabaudia.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
+ BIOTECH BOOM LINKED TO DEVELOPMENT DOLLARS
More evidence of the bubble-like nature of the biotech boom: Much of this boom is in South Asia, Latin America and Africa, where some proponents of sustainable agriculture fear their concerns have been overridden by links between the biotech industry and powerful development institutions like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Bank.
For example, Eija Pehu, a senior scientist in the Bank's department of agriculture and rural development (ARD), is listed on the website of the ISAAA -- whose main funders include biotech industry giants Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science -- as a member of its board of directors.
+ US HEALTH SECRETARY LINKS GM ACCEPTANCE TO AIDS ASSISTANCE IN AFRICA
The US has said it will release the $2 billion earmarked to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries [originally 3b was promised] if recipient nations produce transparent spending plans, Health Secretary Tommy Thompson said. Thompson also said Zambia, which rejected GM food aid last year, must re-think its decision. The US Health Secretary said, "our experts have done tests and found it completely safe". Perhaps he'd like to tell us who he means by "our experts", as almost all the testing has been done by the biotech industry. Could he also tell us where those test results are peer-reviewed published?
+ ARGENTINA: THE CATASTROPHE OF GM SOYA
As Argentina's GM soya exports increase, so do hunger, marginalisation and destitution in this once plentiful land. Here are some excerpts from this powerful article (full article at
"Argentina was once the world's granary. Now starving children haunt the villas miseria & shanty towns and cartoneros (unemployed) families roam the streets looking for leftovers to eke a living from. Over half the population live below the poverty line....
"Argentina, once boasting a diverse agricultural sector, is being transformed into a land of soya-bean monoculture. In the last 10 years, the amount of soya grown has nearly tripled, according to World Bank's figures, and it is almost 100% genetically modified.It was the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) prize pupil, Argentina's President Carlos Menem, who signed the contracts with the agribusiness giants Monsanto and Cargill to go the 'soya way' at the beginning of the 1990s. The contracts were entered into without the participation of Congress and without a public debate. Since then, Argentina has become the second largest GM soya producer in the world, after the United States.
"The countryside is being left empty as the farm workers' role in nurturing the land and crops is displaced by aeroplanes and agribusiness infrastructure. Migration to the cities has risen at an alarming rate: 300,000 farmers have deserted the countryside and more than 500 villages have been abandoned, or are on the road to disappearance. Agribusiness GM soya farming requires agriculture without culture or people. As a consequence, the villas miseria on the outskirts of the cities are mushrooming with the arriving unemployed agricultural workers.
"Dusty ashes are left as the earth is intoxicated with agrochemicals to harvest Monsanto's patented seeds, which are genetically modified to be resistant to the company's herbicide, Round Up. Previously unknown illnesses are appearing as people are exposed to highly toxic herbicides, which include Agent Orange, the defoliant used by the US military to devastate Vietnam during the 1960s and '70s, and others that contain paraquat, which can corrode metal, and glyphosate.
"Floods without precedence are taking place as forests are cut down to make way for soya crops. In the high-mountain provinces of Salta and Juyuy, on the border of Bolivia, the subtropical Yungas region is being deforested to make space for soya plantations. Greenpeace has warned that in five years, the ancient cloud forest will be extinct."
+ DEFRA EMBRACES THE NEW EUGENICS
UK farm ministry Defra has murdered a perfectly healthy ram on the grounds that he lacked a gene they believe to confer resistance to the sheep disease scrapie. There is, of course, no credible evidence that the gene in question does confer resistance to scrapie, nor is there any proven connection between scrapie and BSE, the mad cow disease Defra hopes to eliminate with its new policy.
This is a prime example of the discredited genetic determinism that blames diseases on faulty genes, when the best evidence suggests that only 2% of diseases can be linked to a single gene. Genetic determinism conveniently ignores social and environmental factors known to affect human and animal health, such as nutrition, stress, overcrowding, excessive drug use and unhealthy living conditions. Defra has worked to silence researchers like Mark Purdey who believe that environmental factors play a part in BSE and the human brain disease it's believed to cause, vCJD.
+ MUGGED BY THE SCIENCE MAFIA
Author Bryan Appleyard writes about the science establishment's attack dogs.
BOOK OF THE MONTH
+ SEEDS OF DECEPTION: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating
by Jeffrey M Smith
Fairfield, IA, 2003
Hardback, 289 pages ISBN 0-9729665-8-7
Our thanks to Paul Goettlich of Mindfully.org (www.mindfully.org) who kindly sent us a review copy.
I confess that I picked up this book with a certain jadedness: after working with breaking GM news for several years, I didn't think there was much more that a book could tell me that my non-scientist's brain could also make sense of. How wrong I was.
Jeffrey Smith, who used to work for a GM testing company, has written the story of the GM foods scam in an account that is as compelling as it is lucid. Once I'd started it, I couldn't put it down. Smith has an extraordinary gift for writing about this complex and highly technical subject in prose that romps along as effortlessly as a railway station novelette -- but without compromising one iota of journalistic integrity or scientific rigour.
Among the glowing commendations of the book is one by Arpad Pusztai that pays tribute to Smith's presentation of the science: "A particular strength of the book -- and this will be hated by the pro-GM lobby -- is that it uses a very colourful but easily understandable language to describe what is usually described as 'high' science. My greatest compliment is that even though I am a scientist I got some special insights into the workings of the recombinant DNA technology from Jeffrey Smith's enjoyable presentation."
I found the book most enlightening in its revelation of the full stories behind the headlines of all the great GM frauds and disasters. If, like me before reading this book, you only know what happened in the Starlink episode from news reports, you don't know the half of it. I knew that consumers alleged that they had suffered allergic reactions to corn products that were found to contain GM Starlink corn, which was not approved for human consumption but which had got into the food chain. I knew that US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did some tests and then announced that Starlink was NOT the cause of the allergies. I knew that Val Giddings of the industry group BIO had been widely quoted in the media as saying the results meant that the case was "slam-dunk closed". Recently, in the wake of reports that three years after Starlink was pulled from the market it is still turning up in corn, Giddings has once more been wheeled out to mouth the industry line. "[Starlink has] been a non-trivial black eye, a self-inflicted wound we didn't need," said Giddings. But "not only don't we have dead bodies, we don't have headaches or a single sniffle."
On the basis of their record of truth-telling I didn't believe Giddings or the FDA tests, but I couldn't have argued my case because I lacked the details. Smith gives us those details: the bits that didn't appear in the news reports. And as ever, the truth makes sense in a way that the mixture of half-truths and spin that reach the media does not. Baroness Greenfield complains that the public is confused about GM, but she fails to address the fact that much information about GM comes from industry, that industry lies, and that lies are always confusing. They are designed to be.
Smith tells us that five weeks after FDA's declaration of safety, scientific advisors to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- including leading food allergists -- released a thorough critique of the FDA's allergy tests and other aspects of the investigation. EPA concluded that "The test, as conducted, does not eliminate StarLink Cry9C [the new protein in the GM plant] as a potential cause of allergic symptoms". One of the major flaws EPA identified in the allergy test was that FDA asked Aventis, the makers of Starlink, to provide the Cry9C. No independent verification of the protein was obtained. In fact, Aventis did give FDA a sample of Cry9C protein, but it wasn't taken from Starlink but from E. coli bacteria. Proteins express differently in different species. Smith points out, "they can have different added molecules (hitch-hikers), for example, or be folded differently". Even FDA admits that this substitution could invalidate the test's results. More importantly, Cry9C created from Starlink has an added sugar chain, a hitch-hiker, which as EPA said, "is well known to enhance allergenicity of a protein".
Back in 1997, EPA had asked Aventis to determine the composition of the sugar chain in order to assess its allergenicity. Aventis never reported any results to the agency. What Aventis did provide was woefully inadequate. Mistakes in the document obscured the results, conclusions were at odds with the study's own data, and Aventis failed to update an out-of-date unreliable test. One frustrated member of the EPA panel commented, "if this were presented for publication in the journals that I review for... it would be rejected." Japanese scientist Masaharu Kawata commented on the StarLink test that "We have found many examples of this kind of data comparison that are incomparable and may look scientific, and is the same disguised tactics used in the application for approval of Roundup Ready soybeans by Monsanto in Japan."
Finally, EPA upheld their original assessment that there is a medium likelihood that StarLink is an allergen -- a conclusion conveniently ignored by the likes of Giddings.
Smith looks at all the major GM stories and uncovers astonishing stories of fraud and persecution of whistle-blowers. There are chapters on:
*the Pusztai affair, including the role of the Rowett head, Prof Phillip James, who banned Pusztai from talking about his GM potato research and then wrongly told the public and media that Pusztai's potatoes had been modified to include a toxin -- a mistake that has since proved more than convenient for the GM lobby;
*the l-tryptophan incident, including interviews with people who were sickened and disabled by the supplement, which was made with GM bacteria. Smith shows how FDA covered up evidence that GM was to blame, while the company that made the supplement behaved with relative openness. FDA distorted the incident to put the blame on unregulated natural health treatments and used it as an excuse to ban a supplement that had never hurt anyone in its non-GM-produced form;
*reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson's investigation into Monsanto's GM bovine growth hormone rbGH, including a breakdown of how Monsanto tried to force Akre and Wilson to change their report to make rbGH sound less dangerous. One tactic was to 'demote' GM-sceptical scientist Dr William von Meyer by stripping him of his numerous credentials gained from years of testing the effects of chemicals on humans. The Monsanto version of the script referred to him simply as a 'scientist in Wisconsin' -- for all we know, a wild-eyed eccentric with a few test tubes bubbling away in a rural garage.
Now we know: it's no accident that supposedly balanced TV and radio programmes about GM name all the scientific credentials of the pro-GM spokespersons and show them looking important and serious in their labs, whereas the anti-GM voices are worried housewives and angry bearded greenies shown chopping veg in their kitchens or ripping up crops in a field. References by anti-GM spokespeople to scientific research are edited out; all that's left is the 'emotive' element that the pro-GM lobby uses as a stick to beat us with.
The biotech industry wants us to see and swallow such messages, products of a spin machine they hope remains in the shadows. Smith gives us a clear vision of what they don't want us to see: a master plan by corporations to take over the control of the world's food supply. At a 1999 industry conference, a consultant from Arthur Anderson Consulting Group explained how he helped Monsanto create that plan. He asked Monsanto to describe what their ideal future looked like in 15-20 years. Monsanto executives described a world in which 100% of all commercial seeds were genetically modified and patented. Anderson worked backwards from that goal and developed the tactics to achieve it. Those tactics are laid bare in this book. Smith interviews courageous scientists and officials who were expected to fall in with the plan but wouldn't - and there are more of them than you might think -- often paying with their reputations and careers.
Sprinkled between the big GM stories are fascinating anecdotes that Smith
has evidently picked up from his privileged position on the fringes of the industry. We read of a biochemist's shocked response at an industry conference to a company's vaunting of a GM tomato that looks fresh 150 days after it's picked: "I have a problem. If this doesn't rot or decay in 150 days, then what have you done with the nutrient value?" The industry honcho refuses to answer in front of the other delegates, but leads the biochemist outside the room and says: "We're not interested in the nutritive value. What we're interested in is if it's picked now, will a housewife buy it in 180 days?"
If such stories strike a chill into your heart, you can warm it up again by reading the inspirational chapter on how former prisoners and disruptive schoolchildren in Wisconsin turned their lives around JUST by changing their diet. Out go the junk foods, in come the fresh unprocessed foods. One judge even 'sentences' new probationers to the healthy diet, warning them that if they don't stick to it they'll be back in trouble, and then it'll be jail. One previously violent school has seen no incidents of weapons, drugs, suicides, dropouts or expulsions in the five years since it put its students on the program. The story shows that the sort of people we become and the sort of societies we inhabit depend heavily on the quality of the food we eat. All the more reason for genetic engineers and their friends in government to take responsibility and end their insane acts of terror against our food.
Whether you know nothing, a little, or a lot about GM, Seeds of Deception is one book you cannot afford to pass over. You can lend it to your parents, your friends, the local farmer, your MP and even your doctor in confidence that they will emerge informed and immunised against all the lies they will hear about the 'safety' of GM foods.
EVENT OF THE MONTH
+ THE PULSE OF SCIENTIFIC FREEDOM: WEBCAST TO THE WORLD
Just before Thanksgiving break, UC Berkeley's chancellor officially signed off on denying tenure to Ignacio Chapela. Ignacio would like to thank everyone for their support during this incredibly difficult process.
In true Ignacio style, he has arranged an extraordinary conversation with other academics who've been victims of corporate terrorizing of the university by biotech firms, following shortly on the heels of the chancellor's decision.
"The pulse of Scientific Freedom In the Age of the Biotech Industry"
A public conversation
Arpad Pusztai, Norwegian Food Sciences Institute, formerly Principal
Scientific Officer, Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland.
John Losey, Associate Professor, Cornell University.
Tyrone Hayes, Associate Professor, UC Berkeley.
Ignacio Chapela, Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley.
December 10, 2003, 7-9 pm
155 Dwinelle Hall, University of California, Berkeley
Introduced by Michael Pollan
Moderated by Mark Dowie
This conversation will take place at 155 Dwinelle Hall, University of California, Berkeley next Wednesday, Dec. 10 from 7-9pm. This is open to the public, so please spread the word. There will be a live webcast for those who are unable to make it.
More information on Wednesday's event:
and for the live webcast navigate from:
THE MONTH'S TOP STORIES
+ CABINET PAPERS WARN CANADA OFF GM CROPS
A secret briefing to the Canadian government has warned that the country's massive food exports are at risk from its continued use of GM crops. The paper, which has been obtained under the Access of Information Act, warns the cabinet of the "pressing need to immediately address these concerns". Such fears contrast with the government's repeated endorsement of GM crops and technology as a great opportunity for Canada. Some pages of the secret document, which have been blanked out, concern advice on how to deal with the growing public fears and the potential loss of further export markets for Canadian goods.
+ GREEN GROUPS SUE USDA TO STOP BIO-PHARM PLANTING
A coalition of environmental groups and consumer advocates sued the US Agriculture Department in federal court on November 12 to try to halt the experimental planting of biotech crops engineered to make medicine.
+ BAYER UNDER PRESSURE - POSTS 3RD-QUARTER NET LOSS OF 8M
Drug and chemicals maker Bayer AG swung to a loss in the third quarter as sales fell at divisions the company will soon spin off and analysts warned the remaining drug and farm chemicals businesses face pressure too. Bayer said it lost 123 million ($138 million) in the July-September period in contrast to profits of 656 million a year ago and 128 million in the second quarter.
+ SENSE ABOUT SCIENCE ORGANISED THAT LETTER TO BLAIR
As we suspected, the letter from 114 UK pro-corporate scientists on the issue of increasing hostility to, and lack of government support for, work on GM, was co-ordinated by Sense About Science. Sense About Science's phone number is the same as that for the charity Global Futures. According to the Charity Commission, the contact person for Global Futures is Ellen Raphael.
When Sense About Science was established Raphael was a consultant for the London-based PR company Regester Larkin . Regester Larkin's client list includes Aventis CropScience, Aventis Pharma, Bayer Inc, BioIndustry Association, and Pfizer.
+ TREWAVAS CLAIMS INTIMIDATION BY NGIN!
According to an article in the Times Higher Education Supplement, NGIN/GM WATCH is part of a vicious "hardcore" campaign of intimidation by "the increasingly violent anti-GM lobby". An excerpt from the article, which quotes Prof Anthony (Tony) Trewavas FRS, follows: "...many scientists believe that the increasingly violent anti-GM lobby did nothing to persuade Monsanto to stay and that the hardcore tactics of protesters are affecting the UK's ability to sustain biotechnology research in areas such as GM.
"Tony Trewavas, professor of applied biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh, told The THES: 'There has been so much agitation that anyone with any sense has simply left the country.'
"Professor Trewavas is one of a number of scientists in this field who are regularly singled out on anti-GM websites, such as the Norfolk Genetic Information Network."
+ "DISMAL" GM POTATO A DECADE AWAY, SAYS SCIENTIST
The BBC's science correspondent Pallab Ghosh waxed lyrical not so long ago about India's GM "protato" which he said would soon be in all Indian school children's lunch boxes in order to enhance the protein content of their diet.
His much publicised report for the BBC claimed this GM protein-enriched potato was "expected to be approved in India within six months". However, Ghosh's story, hanging as it does purely on the claims of the Indian bureaucrat Manju Sharma, has caused irritation even to pro-GM scientists in India. A fervent GM supporter, Prof. C Kameswara Rao, points out that far from being approved within months the protato is 'unlikely to see the light of the day in this decade'!
Rao said: "While the idea of a protein enriched potato is welcome, trying to sell it in the name of improving school children's nutritional intake through the mid-day meal project is not entirely honest or convincing. The amaranth grain has about 16 per cent of protein (much more than in any cereal or millet, though far lower than in pulses), but only a very small portion of this is realized in the GE potato. No explanation is available on this insignificant expression of the transgene(s).
"I noticed that the potato used to make wafer chips in England has 6.0 to 6.5 per cent of protein, while that of the GE potato is only about 2.5 per cent. I do not understand how this dismal product could generate so much euphoria in the product developer and its sole promoter.
+ BRAZIL APPROVES GM BUT PARANA STATE RESISTS
The government of President Lula of Brazil has authorised the commercialisation of GMOs in 2004. The move is widely seen as a betrayal by Lula, who has traditionally opposed cultivation of GMOs.
However, ParanÃ¡ State, national largest soya exporter and second largest producer, passed last month a state law that forbids the cultivation, storage and commercialisation of GMOs. The law has the support of a broad coalition of national groups from the fields of environment defense, consumer´s rights and agroecology as well as the local section of the Workers Party to which Lula belongs, and that used to oppose GMOs firmly in the previous administration.
ParanÃ¡ holds a key position in the national geopolitical chess game of transgenics. The state government controls the port of ParanaguÃ¡, the largest soya export port of the country, and is close to an agreement with China´s government to export 100% of its soya production for a period of at least 10 years on the basis that it is GM-free. ParanaguÃ¡ also is the door for exportation of other Brazil´s big soya exporters, such as Mato Grosso (the largest), Rio Grande do Sul (heavily contaminated by GMOs, now forbidden to use ParanaguÃ¡) and even the neighbouring country Paraguay.
+ GREENPEACE UNDER ATTACK AT UN BY US & ITS NEO-CONSERVATIVES
Greenpeace is coming under attack at both the United Nations and by the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is moving to lift Greenpeace's "consultative status," which permits the environmental group to submit briefs to and address the UN agency--responsible for ensuring "safer ships" and "cleaner seas"--on the grounds that the group practices unsafe seamanship.
The action comes as U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is pressing a criminal case against Greenpeace for allegedly violating an obscure 1872 law against individuals who lured sailors to their establishments with offers of liquor or prostitutes, and encouraging local authorities to deny Greenpeace docking rights at its ports.
Both actions come amid efforts by groups close to the Bush administration to more closely monitor progressive international NGOs, such as Greenpeace, that they accuse of pursuing a "globalist agenda" that threatens U.S. interests abroad.
+ MONSANTO'S GM SOY SAFETY ASSESSMENT FLAWED, SAYS SCIENTIST
Monsanto's safety assessment application to the Japanese health ministry for Roundup Ready soybeans was "inadequate and incomplete," according to assistant professor Masaharu Kawata, of Nagoya University, Japan. According to the Japanese study, Monsanto's safety tests misrepresent data and included testing proteins not derived from the GM plant; insufficient feeding experiments; and intentional neglect of "inappropriate" data. Since the components of the GE soybean that people are eating are still unknown, governments who have approved the GE soybean should review their safety assessments.
+ GOVERNMENT'S GM ADVISOR CALLS FOR NEW CONTAMINATION AND LIABILITY LAWS
New laws must be introduced if GM crops are ever allowed to be commercially grown in the UK, the government's main GM policy advisor said on 25 November. This should include measures to prevent contamination from GM crops and rules to enable farmers to claim compensation if it occurs. Friends of the Earth has broadly welcomed the report, but insists that biotech companies must be strictly liable for any harm caused. The report by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) also calls for changes to the Environmental Protection Act so that the costs of cleaning up environmental damage caused by GM crops would be charged to biotech companies, even if the law has not been broken.
+ "AGRISCIENCE BUS" TAKES TEACHERS FOR A RIDE
"Agriscience Bus", a 3-day summer course sponsored by ag industry groups and free to teachers is teaching American schoolchildren about agriculture - of the high-tech industrial, intensive, GM variety. Whether this is education or brainwashing is the topic of an excellent article by Jane Garrison at
When the topic of genetically modified foods came up in the teachers' lounge one day, my friend Tom (not his real name) chimed in, "It's like when nectarines were made from peaches and plums." He said he had learned this on the "Agriscience Bus."
Having a working knowledge of genetically modified foods and knowing the fallacy of that analogy, I asked other previous Agriscience Bus participants about it. They all had the same impression, saying things like, "The course really opened my eyes to biotechnology" and "Some important biotech research is making big differences in improving the world's food supply." I asked whether any fellow course participants had brought up concerns over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). "Well, no," they answered, "it's hard to know what to ask when a geneticist is talking."
Opening Message of the "Biotechnology Basics Activity Book":
This is an activity book for young people like you about biotechnology -- a really neat topic. Why is it such a neat topic? Because biotechnology is helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it home. In this book, you will take a closer look at biotechnology. You will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food that improves our health. As you work through the puzzles in this book, you will learn more about biotechnology and all of the wonderful ways it can help people live better lives in a healthier world.
-- sponsored by the Council For Biotechnology Information, an industry trade
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK: from the GMWATCH archive
28/11/2003 Bishop urges GM probe and pleads to Christians to save Earth
28/11/2003 GM not feeding the hungry even in America
28/11/2003 Monsanto offers false promises in Asia
28/11/2003 Tanzanian parliament blocks government on GM seeds
28/11/2003 THE WEEKLY WATCH number 49
30/11/2003 Defra embraces the new eugenics
30/11/2003 The pulse of Scientific Freedom - webcast to the world
1/12/2003 GM rice stopped in Japan
1/12/2003 Pusztai in America
1/12/2003 Traces of contaminated grain still showing up in corn supply
2/12/2003 Argentina: The catastrophe of GM soya
2/12/2003 Mugged by the science mafia
2/12/2003 Schmeiser and patents/Campaign against patents on life
2/12/2003 US Health Secretary links GM acceptance to help with AIDS in Africa
2/12/2003 Weeding out the skilled farmer
3/12/2003 Prakash says Benbrook's research "pseudo-scientific"
4/12/2003 Biotech Boom Linked to Development Dollars - Critics
4/12/2003 Italy to set up tighter barriers against GMO imports
FOR THE COMPLETE GMWATCH ARCHIVE: http://www.gmwatch.org/archive.asp
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